The President of the AFL-CIO of Delaware, New Castle County Council President Christopher Bullock, the NAACP, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists want the University of Delaware Newark Residents Against the Power Plant to disassociate themselves from remarks made in a letter from power plant foe Amy Roe.
Instead, the group backed Roe, calling criticism over her remarks in a letter a personal attack.
Click on the following link for the letter: trustee letter
In the letter to the University of Delaware Board of Trustees, whose ranks include Gov. Jack Markell, Roe, made many claims about the environmental dangers from the proposed $1.1 billion project. Roe, an unsuccessful candidate for Newark mayor and her associate Jen Wallace, have often been the public face of the no power plant group.
In one paragraph, Roe claims that those working on building the Data Center at the former Chrysler plant would pose a threat to University of Delaware students, stating, “I now worry for the safety of the young women who attend UD.”
AFL CIO President Samuel Lathem, a longtime worker at Chrysler before heading the labor organization, said he was hurt by Roe’s remarks and said her statements harken back to an ugly time in the state. African American Chrysler workers, for many years, suffered from the effects of segregated housing and other forms of discrimination that forced long commutes to the plant.
“Dr. Roe’s inflammatory and hyperbolic letter insults so many of the good people of Newark and Delaware, people who work with their hands, in blue-collar industries, who might or might not be supportive of the Data Center, but certainly do not deserve to be treated as some type of unequal citizen, unworthy of a seat at a public hearing or a job in their own community.”
In her letter, Roe talked about intimidation by union members at a Newark Board of Adjustment hearing and that some members smelled of alcohol.She went on to say that the construction workers could present a menace to young women on Main Street, mentioning a rape on Main Street in the 1980s and carrying pepper spray for her personal protection.
New Castle County Council President Chris Bullock calls the letter insulting.
“Dr. Roe’s letter represents the absolute worst kind of class-based elitism, one that characterizes construction workers as some type of dangerous, uncivilized animal to be avoided and even separated from the educated class. Amazingly, she goes on to wonder if pepper spray will be needed to protect herself from the shadowy electrician, laborer, or boilermaker who may do, Lord knows what, to her and others like her,” said Bullock. “Jim Crow laws have long past and Dr. Roe’s desire to segregate citizens based on class and occupation is not only upsetting, it is damaging and un-American.”
Lathem and Bullock called on the University of Delaware and the membership of Newark Residents Against the Power Plant to officially and publicly condemn Roe’s remarks.
That did not happen, with the group issuing the following statement that backed Roe and contained no indications of its views regarding the conduct of construction workers.
“We contend that the baseless and unsubstantiated claims are a personal attack and nothing more. They are not rooted in reality and are a desperate attempt by supporters of the power plant to take attention away from the facts we have been uncovering and documenting about this project. We will continue fighting this power plant based on its own lack of merit and sharing what we find with the public, elected officials and the University of Delaware Trustees and administration. We refuse to participate in personal attacks and instead choose to focus on our fact-based campaign against the construction of this power plant.”
Gov. Jack Markell, who received Roe’s letter, also took issue with her remarks.
“As a member of the Board of Trustees, I know that Newark thrives as an economically and racially diverse community. The suggestion that the presence of tradesmen at a potential campus construction site would somehow threaten public safety is both insulting to working people and very much at odds with the diverse and welcoming community where I grew up. I am glad that the AFL-CIO and other leaders denounced that kind of rhetoric and I hope we can return civility to this debate.”
Markell’s thoughts were echoed by Ken Grant, who has been serving as spokesman for The Data Centers.
“We stand with the hard working men, women, and families who have been maligned by this ignorant and hate-filled letter,” Grant stated. “Everyone involved with the data center project is troubled by the revelation that a significant motivation for opposition to this plan stems from such an irrational fear and we hope this is only one person’s offensive reasoning and not reflective of others in our community.”
Roe did not respond to an email seeking comment. Roe and organized labor have clashed in the past over the renewal of the environmental permitting for the Delaware City Refinery.
Supporters of the Data Centers project have long suspected an undercurrent of elitism among members of Citizens Against the Newark Power Plant. In comments before the City Council one critic claimed that the $40,000 a year salaries of permanent workers at the site would not make a sizable contribution to the Newark economy. There were also claims that jobs would be filled by outsiders with no ties to the city.